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From 'Gangnam Style' to weather cats, 2012 was a banner year for viral videos

This year, we discovered it was possible to mash up wildly divergent parts of pop culture (Cookie Monster and The Dark Knight), or pretend we were riding horses ("Gangnam Style" tributes) or just watch a cat spin on a turntable. And then we sent those videos around. Everywhere. To everyone.

In case you missed some of the year's great viral videos, we've compiled a list of our favorites.

(Note: Some of the videos may have adult language, or situations.)


Darth Vader visits Disneyland, rides teacups

Okay, so it was part of a big ad campaign following Disney’s acquisition of George Lucas’ space opera epic -- but that didn’t make the mashup of Lord Vader with the Happiest Place on Earth any less hilarious. Thanks to cheap editing software and a prevailing geek ethic, virals featuring comic book characters/movie franchise heroes (Batman Gets Lost Thanks to Apple Maps) and straight-up Pixar favorites (“Toy Story” toys burn up in family prank on Mom) were among the most popular this year. And let’s not forget the mashups: Prepare for your holiday travel with the Scariest Flights from Films in One Supercut and then calm your nerves by watching 250 Movies in 2 Minutes.


Downton Tabby

Popular TV shows were ripe for parody. PBS’s “Downton Abbey” offered the most fertile ground for hilarity, from the use of cats (see above) to subbing in a former Will Smith character (The Fresh Prince of “Downton Abbey”). “Breaking Bad” also was popular for mixologists, who blended the meth-making characters with a pop tune (Taylor Swift Takes “Breaking Bad” Turn). Sometimes multiple shows got mashed together, as in Don Draper Eats Brains on “Walking Dead Mad Men.” And wouldn’t “Game of Thrones” be even more interesting if, instead of swords, they borrowed from "Star Wars"? (“Game of Thrones” with Lightsabers.)


Happy Little Trees Grow Again in Bob Ross video

If “Downton Abbey” held a warm place in many readers’ hearts, nostalgia for PBS and Muppet-related programming was white-hot. Gentle painter Bob Ross was able to paint again, while singing, thanks to auto-tune (see video above), a connection was forged between Cookie Monster and Batman (Video Proves Dark Knight is Secretly Cookie Monster), and the Muppets welcomed “The Voice’s” Cee Lo into their homes (Muppets Join Cee Lo on “All I Need Is Love” video). 


USA Olympic Swimming Team’s “Call Me Maybe” Tribute

U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen Go “Gangnam Style”

A newcomer to the U.S. must think everyone is out there dancing (or galloping) in the streets 24/7, thanks to the flood of “Gangnam Style” and “Call Me Maybe” tribute videos. (The original "Gangnam Style" video itself hit 1 billion views on Dec. 21.) Among the most-watched of these videos here at TODAY.com were the Olympic Swimming Team’s tribute to the Carly Rae Jepsen song and the Naval Academy’s take on “Gangnam Style.” Ohio University’s band also got into the “Gangnam” act, as did Hugh Jackman when singer PSY visited the “Wolverine” set, and clever editors managed to get both Klingons and Bill Nye in on the Korean pop sensation. Even the president got in on it, unwittingly, thanks to auto-tune and some clever editing, as his “version” of “Call Me Maybe” proves.


Autistic child ballerina dances her way into viewers' hearts with viral video

Songs are funny but kids are gold: One of our most popular stories of the entire year came from the video of an autistic child ballerina going through her steps in perfect precision with a pro. Katy Perry also stepped up to the mic with a little girl who had autism and sang with her onstage. And lest anyone think all kids can do is sing, it turns out they can also kick a little butt, as the “Dragon Baby” video showed in graphic (hey, stuffing is just pouring out of that toy’s wound!) detail. 

Cats and Dogs

Cat Wanders Into Weather Report

Cats don’t care. They just do their thing. And sometimes, when they do, a camera captures their awesome indifference. Another one of the year’s top clicks went to the kitty who wandered onto Univision’s Miami news set as Eduardo Rodriguez read out the weather; the crew just couldn’t stop laughing, but at no time did Rodriguez break a sweat. A cat also delighted readers with its ride on a record player, and to be fair to canines, the much-clicked sight of actor Kevin Bacon diving into a pool with his pet pit bull Lucy was also hugely popular.

So what was your favorite viral video of the past year? What did we miss? Let us know on Facebook!

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